The Seibu Lions didn’t make it to the Japan Series, but the Pacific League champions dominated Monday’s Best Nine Award announcement.
The Lions won the PL by 6½ games over the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks, and six of their starters were named in a poll of Japan’s baseball media as the best in the league at their position. In contrast, the Central League champion Carp led their league in the voting but picked up just three awards.
In the PL, Seibu captain and second baseman Hideto Asamura, who led the league in RBIs, won his third straight award with 251 votes. He was one of two PL players to win unanimously.
There were none in the CL.
Among the three PL outfield awards, Lions center fielder Shogo Akiyama received 250 votes to earn his third Best Nine Award, finishing second behind SoftBank center fielder Yuki Yanagita, the other unanimous pick.
Seibu shortstop Sosuke Genda, the PL’s 2016 rookie of the year, received 248 votes, while first baseman and league home run king Hotaka Yamakawa pulled in 243.
Slugging catcher Tomoya Mori received 179 votes and left-hander Yusei Kikuchi got 135, 70 more than runner-up and Lions teammate Shinsaburo Tawata. It was Kikuchi’s second Best Nine, but the first for Genda, Yamakawa and Mori.
The Hawks, who knocked out the Lions in the final stage of the PL Climax Series, placed two on the honor roll. Yanagita won for the fourth time, and third baseman Nobuhiro Matsuda, the runner-up the past four years, won his first.
The other two PL awards went to first timers — Orix Buffaloes outfielder Masataka Yoshida and Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters designated hitter Kensuke Kondo.
In the CL, Carp center fielder and MVP candidate Yoshihiro Maru won his fourth Best Nine and his third straight, receiving a league-high 271 votes, 11 shy of the 282 valid ballots cast. Carp catcher Tsubasa Aizawa (248 votes) won his second and second straight, while right fielder Seiya Suzuki (213) won his third and also his third straight.
Hayato Sakamoto (264) was voted the best shortstop for the fourth time, while Yomiuri Giants teammate Tomoyuki Sugano (243) was voted the best pitcher for the third time and the second year in a row.
There were two winners from the fourth-place Yokohama BayStars. Third baseman Toshiro Miyazaki (250) won his second and second straight and was joined by outfielder Neftali Soto (108), who led the CL in home runs in his first season.
Tokyo Yakult Swallows second baseman Tetsuto Yamada, the only player with more than one “triple-three” season of 30-plus home runs and steals and a .300-plus batting average, received 263 votes after accomplishing the feat for the third time. It was his fourth award and his first in two years.
First baseman Dayan Viciedo of the Chunichi Dragons won for the first time with 174 votes. Giants cleanup hitter Kazuma Okamoto was runner-up with 95 votes, and was also runner-up at third base, where he received 23.
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5